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Calais, August 24-25, 2022

The English Channel felt unusually full this week with a constant flow of extra holiday ferries leaving and arriving at the Calais port. In this busiest shipping lane in the world, refugees are still making the dangerous crossing to the UK in small boats, with news of over one thousand people arriving earlier this week.

With no decent asylum system in place, the refugee situation on either side of the Channel feels a bit like a circus involving real human lives, full of contradictions. In Calais itself, people from the Middle East were sleeping in a new tented camp right in the town centre; others from east Africa have been sleeping rough for months on end; while news back from individuals who have crossed to the UK is that they are alone in asylum hotels, fearful about an uncertain future.

The Secours Catholique day centre was busy, with high numbers of unaccompanied minors. At The Community Table, we focused on typing, spirographs, modelling and drawing, fascination with the typewriters continuing, short bursts of words alongside in-depth letters to strangers and loved ones.

We observed that somehow those who need the table tend to find it and use it, bringing their sadness and aliveness and potential. The Arabic word ‘sharara’, written in huge letters just before we left, spoke to this, translated from Arabic meaning the ‘spark’ of a flame, or sparkle.

Bobby Lloyd and Miriam Usiskin

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